Oct 27, 2022
Could you describe the main tasks that MUV is working on in INKplant?
The main tasks of MUV are related to the design and biomechanical tests of personalized implants for the oral cavity, in particular, jaw bone-replacement implants and palatal obturator implants. These next-generation implants shall combine 3d-printed implant shapes that perfectly match the anatomical defects in patients (e.g due to bone atrophy, surgical bone removal following cancer treatment or genetic malformations such as cleft palate) with the 3D-printed micro-anatomical accuracy of scaffold geometries for an effective integration of native tissue within the implant. The challenge for our group is to design implants that both fulfill macroscopic requirements (anatomical accuracy and biomechanical stability) and microscopic requirements (scaffold structures that facilitate native cells’ integration).
How do you see the role of 3D printing in the medical industry and what excites you about the future of regenerative medicine?
Regenerative medicine is a concept that has been around since the 1980s. While we have been making significant advances in terms of biomaterial development, only recently are we learning, thanks to 3D printing, how to combine different biomaterials in three-dimensional constructs that better mimic the architecture of native tissues. We are combining macroscopic with microscopic worlds, thus witnessing a convergence of research fields to address - at the same time - anatomical, physiological, and biological needs. Here, 3D printing plays a crucial role together with other technologies such as advanced numerical simulations essential for implant design (digital twins of tissues, organs, and even organisms), as well as medical technologies such as organs-on-chip or organoids research, which allow us to control the microenvironment that promotes native tissue regeneration.
What would you say have been the MUV's most notable achievements?
The MUV is pioneering the use of 3D-priniting in medicine, addressing a broad spectrum of possibilities: innovative pre- and intra-operative tools and devices, patient-specific next-generation implants, anthropomorphic phantoms for the development of new diagnostic methods by medical imaging, and realistic physical and virtual models for medical training of the 21st century. The MUV does this with a unique infrastructure and multidisciplinary know-how condensed into one of the largest university hospitals in Europe. One of the recent highlights of MUV in the field of 3D-printing has been the design, production, and use of an implant that has led to the successful treatment of one patient for which no solution was available on the market. Within INKplant, we have been developing an innovative implant design process that combines systematic integration of 1) anatomical pre-operative patient information from clinical imaging, 2) clinicians’ experience from implantation of conventional prostheses, 3) biomechanical characterization and numerical simulation of bioceramic multimaterials, and 4) an optimization process to assign in an objective way material properties (bulk vs. scaffold) to a patient-specific implant.
Can you tell us about any significant advances that have already been made in the INKplant project?
The INKplant project is pushing hard on the concept of next-generation implants where not only macroscopic aspects of anatomical and physiological matches to the patient are addressed, but also the micromechanical scaffold-structure for optimal cell integration is considered. This type of next-generation implants is only possible with the advanced multimaterial additive manufacturing methods developed within the project.
What do you hope to achieve during the project and what are the main goals you are hoping to meet?
The integration of all the exciting developments by the different INKplant partners within the design of the implants envisioned for the different use-cases proposed. Designs that are evaluated in a pre-clinical stage and thus ready for their “upgrade” to the clinical translation.
MUW is organizing the Additive Manufacturing in Medicine Symposium in December where INKplant will play a prominent role. For more information, click the following link: https://www.m3dit.org/